How Can I Keep From Singing?

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Beauty Inspires Us to Feel Joy.

by Eric Elkin

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Be happy! Rejoice out loud! Sing your praises!
— Psalm 98:4

Last Sunday, the choir sang the song, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” It was a bouncy, lively song that made even the most stoic, tone-deaf person in the world want to sing. Once you’ve heard the song, it stays with you for the rest of the week. I was still humming it in my head as I read Psalm 98 this morning.

No matter how long the song stays with you, a point comes where you collide with reality. The news of the day tells you there is a lot of stuff out there to prevent you from singing. Threats of nuclear missiles, chemical weapon attacks, families destroyed and displaced by war and violence do not inspire songs of joy. 

Reports on the opioid crisis, climate change, gun violence and domestic abuse constantly threaten our sense of happiness. Even if all of those issues were to disappear magically, we would still have our interpersonal conflicts to cope with and our anxieties. The longer we dwell on life’s frustrations and wounds, the more we wonder, why would I want to sing?

Last weekend, I also officiated a funeral for a quiet woman who passed away at the ripe old age of 96. Her celebration of life service was full of beautiful songs and memories. One might think it a blessing to die peacefully at 96 and to have such beautiful memories. However, her life was anything but peaceful. 

She was a child of the depression and grew up in a house where food could not be taken for granted. Her husband served in World War II. Even after the war was over, the young couple had to work hard to make ends meet. A trucking accident forced her husband to spend two years in rehab. There were so many aspects of their life which were stressful and depressing. Yet, they were a house which loved to sing. A family who always saw beauty in life.

I invite you to read Psalm 98 today. Take time and breathe before you do. As you read the words, let images of the beauty in your life wash over your mind. Consider the joy of opening a present as a child on Christmas morning. Reflect on the wonder of holding a hand of one so precious to you; a child, a parent, a friend or a spouse.  Think about the beauty of a mountain stream, a star-filled night or a warm day on a beach. 

If you do this, you will realize how the Lord fills your life with beauty. Not only will you say, “How can I keep from singing?” you’ll feel silly for even asking the question. Hopefully, you’ll join the rivers by clapping hands, as well.

Click to read: Psalm 98.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • When was a time you felt love?
  • Where do you see beauty at this moment?
  • How often do you consider the beautiful things in your day?

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